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How To Snack Like a Pro While at Work

With a little planning, you can fill your belly and boost your energy

Containers of healthy fruit, nut and whole-wheat cracker snacks

It’s almost 2 o’clock and your schedule for the rest of the afternoon is jam-packed. (Seriously? Who put all these meetings on the calendar?) Getting through the next few hours is going to be a challenge.

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Making matters worse, your grumbling stomach is objecting loudly to the idea of trying to power through this office onslaught without a little something extra for the effort.

So, you need a snack and you need it NOW.

Moments like these often bring out the worst in our eating habits. It’s easy to plan a healthy breakfast, lunch or dinner, after all — but good intentions often go out the window when hunger suddenly hits.

But it’s possible to snack wisely if you plan for it, says registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD, LD. Here are six tips to satisfy your hunger without a visit to the vending machine.

How to snack smartly at work

Most of us snack. Researchers say that 90% of adults in the United States eat one or more snacks a day. That’s OK, says Czerwony. Nobody should feel guilty about nibbling between meals.

“If you’re hungry, there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a snack,” she continues. “Taking that edge off your hunger can help you focus and provide a much-needed energy boost to get you to your next meal.”

But it’s important to choose wisely when satisfying between-meal munchies. Junk food like candy bars, sodas and potato chips won’t give you the sustained boost needed to make it to quitting time.

Consistent consumption of snack food high in sugar and/or saturated fat can also harm your body over the long haul, increasing your risk for disease. (That’s a high price to pay for snacking.)

So, the best strategy to snack smartly is to prepare, says Czerwony. Use these tips to be ready.

Snack prep on Sunday

A lot of people batch-cook meals on Sunday to get ready for the busy work week. Why not take the same approach with snacks you know you’re going to need?

Preparing snacks ahead of time can put healthy options at your fingertips when the munchies inevitably hit. Simply load up serving-size bags or containers so all you need to do is grab ‘em on your way out the door in the morning.

“Having ready-to-go snacks makes it much easier when you feel overworked, overstressed and overscheduled,” notes Czerwony.

Pre-made snack packs could include:

  • Celery or carrot sticks to crunch on at your desk, perhaps with a bit of hummus or peanut butter for dipping.
  • Healthy muffins (if you’re keen on baking over the weekend).
  • Trail mix made from your favorite nuts, seeds and unsweetened dried fruit. (Try this recipe if you’re looking for inspiration. Here’s a second option, too.)
  • Whole-grain crackers and cheese.

Pick a protein

If you’re looking to knock out feelings of hunger between meals, foods high in protein pack a powerful punch.

The reason? Let’s start with this: Proteins take longer to digest, which can leave your belly feeling full for hours. That slow process also helps level out blood sugar levels while giving you sustained energy.

“Eating food high in protein really can help carry you through,” states Czerwony.

Protein-packed snack options include:

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Eat whole fruit

One of the great advantages of an apple is that you can eat the packaging. Ditto for peaches, pears, plums and other fruits that can be chomped on whole without the need for plates or utensils.

They’re portable and easily stored at your desk, too. Just wash the fruit at home so you can eat it whenever the mood hits.

Another perk? The fiber in fruit skin can help you feel fuller longer into the day, says Czerwony,

Think long-term

That planning idea up above sounds great, but … well, we all know that life can get messy. Sometimes, even the best plans and intentions fall apart.

So, hedge your bets and load a desk drawer with food and snack items with a long shelf life, suggests Czerwony. Your emergency stash can include high-fiber food bars, for instance, or maybe a few small boxes of nutritious cereal.

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A single-serving pack of tuna is a great idea, too. You can easily tear it open and eat out of the packet with a fork.

“In a pinch, these are items that can even help you get through the day if you get stuck at your desk and miss lunch,” Czerwony adds. “They can help fill in some gaps when you really need a bite.”

Hydrate

Food certainly helps silence a growling tummy. Water (and other liquids) can help keep things quiet, too. “A lot of times when people think they’re hungry, they’re really just thirsty,” shares Czerwony.

(Learn how much water you need in a day. SPOILER ALERT: It’s not necessarily eight glasses.)

Snack with purpose

When snack time hits, put aside what you’re doing for a few minutes and pay attention to what you’re eating. Try to avoid mindlessly chowing down.

“Try not to squeeze in a snack while you’re working on emails or in a meeting,” advises Czerwony. “Give yourself a moment and enjoy the food. It’ll help your mind register that you’re eating, helping you feel full and satisfied afterward.”

Final thoughts

Let’s also address a reality of work life: Not every snack will be healthy.

A chocolate cake will appear at someone’s retirement party. A plate of homemade cookies is bound to pop up on the counter. And we all know of an enticing candy dish somewhere in the office.

“It’s important that we don’t associate foods with being good or bad because then we associate ourselves with being good or bad,” encourages Czerwony. “If you eat a cookie, it’s not because you’re being unhealthy. It’s because a cookie is delicious and the time called for it.”

But while cookie and cake days may inevitably happen, try not to let those treats become your regular daily snack. “That’s where you can lean on your healthy snack planning,” emphasizes Czerwony. “Make that your habit.”

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